«An attempt at breaking the mechanicalness which shrouds our lives». Conversation with Mauro Astolfi
Mysterious Engine is a creation which reflects on the condition of non-freedom of the human being. What was the starting point for the development of this work?
The starting point, as it is the case for many of my works, was the “appearences” that more often than not characterise human relationships. I talk about this “mysterious engine” which tends to set itself free, to discover things, to lay bare the lack of freedom, which is by now considered almost “semi-freedom”: a state where habits, energies, thoughts, hopes and fears are brought toghether, from everyday life to the major choices of life.
The complete title of this performance is Mysterious Engine…i.e. the need of authenticity”. What do you mean by “need of authenticity” and how does your work explore this concept?
The need of the authentic is the attempt at breaking the mechanicalness which shrouds almost inevitably nearly every aspect of our lives. We all claim we stand by all our choices, our beliefs and our ideas; but, always with the help of this “mysterious engine” – which is, after all, only a glimpse of self-conssciousness which arises now and then – we sometimes discover that what we thought we knew is not like we thought. This work features moments which aim at shaking, at rousing ourselves, at looking underneath the clothes, at searching for a code, at overwriting some information…I use my own gestural symbology, a small, hidden ritual characterised by moments of escape from what is perceived as reality: an authenticity which is often no more than a huge stratification of habits.
Mysterious Engine is the first of two parts. How does the work proceed in the second part?
In the second part of Mysterious Engine, whose work is still in progress, we give answers: the dancers keep a channel open, a space where they have not found their own key to access a database of answers, of non-convetional solutions to the questions we all ask ourselves in our lives. Honestly, I cannot say anything else right now…
Besides being a choreographer and the director of Spellbound Contemporary Ballet company, you are the director of the modern contemporary department at DAF Center in Rome: an educational and training project for young dancers. Can you tell us something more about this experience and about teaching today in Italy?
Daf is an extraordinary opportunity, and it is so for me as well: and even though at the beginning I did not imagine what it might become, I hoped that this would happen. In fact, after nine years since its opening, it is an international community, sort of a “creative cooperative” where artists from Italy and anywhere else in the world work with an unconditional unity of purpose. The aim is to foster educational development, being aware of the aspects that are often neglected in the traning and continuing education of dancers. Everyday study at Daf, for these youths coming from all parts of Europe, incorporates experiences and paths of active artists and directors of major companies, as well as those of relatively young artists and choreographers. All of them have in common outstanding skills, and most of all a strong will to do things, to communicate and share.
You founded Spellbound nel 1994. How has dance changed over the last twenty years?
Surely some significant changes have taken place: in languages, in gestures, in the awareness that the body had an absolute need to explore, modify, break the wall of extreme codifications that many schools and important teachers had somehow established in the past. Other than this, not much has changed. We use excessively and bulimically the words “research and innovation”, but often – this is my personal experience – these are just big “mental trips”, sophisticated cerebral circumvolutions. In other words, we only tell the same old story over and over again. But there are always exceptions to all rules: the contemporary scene certainly offer artists endowed with great vision and real need to open new paths, even though I dare say that they are a small minority.
What do you expect from this edition of NID Platform?
I expect a free mind in those who listen and watch, and that diversity among all the invited artists prevails. And most of all I hope, but I do not expect it, that there is no need to classify, establish ad define the belonging of this or that choreographer to this or that trend, to watch without knowing who and what you are watching. Just watch, see what happens in those who watch. It may be just boredom…but at least it will be aurìthentic boredom!
Founder and Director of Spellbound Contemporary Ballet, Astolfi’s choreographic vision is to continually develop works that equally embody pure gestural expressiveness structured by classical technique and training. Astolfi created more than 25 programs for the Company and choreographed original works for Kitonb Theatre Company (Italy), Amsterdam Theaterschool (Netherlands), Szegedi Kotrars Ballet (Hungary), Leipziger Ballet (Germany), Balletto di Roma (Italy), Proartedanza Toronto and Arts Umbrella (Canada), BalletX and River North Dance Chicago (USA), Gärtnerplatztheater (Germany) and is creating in 2017 for Israel Ballet (Israel), Magdeburg Ballet (Germany), Compania Nacional de Ballet (Colombia). Since 2009 he is the Artistic Director of the contemporary department at the Dance Arts Faculty (Rome) and in 2016 he was appointed guest teacher for contemporary dance at the Ballet School of Opera Theater in Rome.